Reprisals Against Family Members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei
The judicial harassment of the family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), keep reaching new lows. On 30 October 2017, the unfair trials of his brother-in-law Sayed Nizar Alwadaei, mother-in-law Hajer Mansoor Hassan, and cousin Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor concluded with their unlawful conviction to three years in prison on fabricated charges of planting a fake bomb, and with Mahmood receiving a further month in prison and a BD100 fine. In addition, Sayed Ahmed’s wife, Duaa Alwadaei, was also sentenced to 2 months in prison on 21 March 2018. The reprisals against Sayed’s family continue in prison, with Hajer Mansoor being targeted and assaulted by prison authorities in both July and September 2018.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei’s family-in-law Sentenced to 3 Years Following Flawed Trials
Sayed Ahmed’s brother-in-law, Sayed Nizar, mother-in-law, Hajer Mansoor, and cousin, Mahmood Marzooq, were convicted on 30 October 2017 on fabricated charges of planting a fake bomb following a flawed trial. Their sentences were upheld on 20 December 2017. The case reflects the politicised nature of Bahrain’s judiciary, as the only evidence used to convict Sayed Nizar, Hajer, and Mahmood were confessions extracted under torture. The forensic lab report concluded that the crime-scene samples were “negative as to human [DNA] cells” and “contained no traces of fingerprints.” There is no physical evidence connecting the defendants to the alleged crime.
One week before their sentencing, the Bahraini Embassy told Tom Brake MP that they had been convicted by an “independent Bahraini Court”, indicating the judgment had already been decided before the trial had taken place.
In November 2017 and March 2018, Sayed Nizar was sentenced to an additional three and five years’ imprisonment as a result of two additional cases, based on similar trumped-up charges. In total, he has now been convicted in three separate trials and is serving 11 years in prison. Again, the public prosecution was unable to establish any forensic evidence linking Sayed Nizar to the alleged crimes.
Duaa Alwadaei: Sentenced to two months in prison for ‘insulting public official’
On 21 March 2018, Duaa Alwadaei was sentenced in absentia to two months in prison for allegedly insulting a public official at Bahrain International Airport on 26 October 2016. The incident to which Duaa’s charges relate took place after Sayed Ahmed participated in a protest against the King of Bahrain’s meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May in London. That same night, Duaa was detained at Bahrain International Airport for several hours together with her infant son. Here, she was mistreated, threatened with criminal charges, and warned that her family would be imprisoned if her husband’s activities continued. Following significant international pressure, the US Embassy intervened to facilitate the return of Duaa and her son to London as Sayed Ahmed’s child is a US citizen. Nonetheless, the fact that Duaa’s tormentors carried out their threats one year later is of great concern.
Duaa’s trial was entirely held in absentia. Since lawyers can only be hired through particular channels in Bahrain, the Bahraini Embassy in London is best placed to give power of attorney to a designated lawyer. However, this option was not pursued due to the past involvement of the Embassy in the conviction of her family.
Reprisals Against Hajer Mansoor following International Criticism
In July 2018, Hajer was subjected to threats and other reprisals by the head of Isa Town Prison, Mariam Albardoli, following Sayed’s engagement with the UN and UK Parliament.
On 16 September 2018, Hajer was again subjected to assault by Albardoli and other prison guards together with her fellow inmates Medina Ali and Najah Yusuf. Hajer was left badly bruised and was transferred to hospital, having sustained injuries to her hands and back. This incident followed the publication of a report by the UN Secretary-General that details the reprisals targeting family members of Sayed Ahmed for his engagement with the UN. Reprisals against Sayed Ahmed’s family were also raised at a Westminster Hall Debate on 11 September 2018. Since the assault, further restrictions on phone calls, family visits and time allocated outside the cell have also been imposed on all inmates.
- UK Parliament
- United Nations
- Nov 2018: UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the detention of Sayed Ahmed’s family as both “arbitrary” and “acts of reprisal”, and urged the Bahraini government to release the victims immediately and grant them their right to compensation.
- 12 Sep 2018: UN Secretary-General in its annual report, expressed serious concerns for the “ongoing trend of harassment and intimidation” against Bahraini human rights defender, including Sayed Ahmed’s family as a result of his cooperation with the UN.
- 27 Mar 2017: 6 UN experts expressed their concern over Sayed Ahmed’s case
- Amnesty International: described the reprisals as a “clear attempt to muzzle Sayed Ahmed”
- Human Rights Watch: condemned the “flawed trial” of Sayed Ahmed’s family
- European Parliament
- 20 Mar 2018: MEP Julie Ward wrote Letter to High Representative
- 12 Feb 2018: The High Representative replied to a Parliamentary Question stating that Sayed’s family case is “well known”.
- 23 Oct 2017: 40 MEP sent Letter to High Representative of the EU
- 17 Oct 2017: MEP Julie Ward further questioned the HR/VP
- US Department of State
- 22 Mar 2018: DoS spokesperson answered question about Duaa Alwadaei
- 17 Nov 2017: DoS spokesperson answered question about Sayed’s family, saying it represents a “major concern”
Failure of the Oversight Bodies and FCO Response
Despite these trials falling short of international standards of fair trial and due process, the FCO has never acknowledged that these measures have been arranged in response to Mr Alwadaei’s activism. Since August 2017, Mr Alwadaei has been in contact with the Ombudsman to request them to conduct an investigation into accounts of ill-treatment and torture alleged by his family in prison. The FCO has been involved in the entire correspondence between Mr Alwadaei and the Ombudsman, witnessing firsthand how they have systematically failed to conduct impartial investigations thereby paving the way for the unlawful conviction of Mr Alwadaei’s family. Nevertheless, the FCO still encourages Mr Alwadaei to refer his concerns to these oversight bodies and has never acknowledged the damage they have caused to his personal and professional life.